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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Nov 1, 2023



‘THE BURIAL’ is a courtroom drama on Prime Video that stars Jamie Foxx in his best role since won the Oscar as Ray Charles. 

It is based on the true story of famous Florida lawyer Willie Gary (played by Foxx) and the case he handled for Jeremiah O’Keefe (Tommy Lee Jones, another Oscar winner) in 1995. 

The movie is based on the article “The Burial” published in 1999 in the New Yorker. 

It starts with Jeremiah celebrating his 75th birthday. He’s happy and contented with his life, his wife and their 13 children. 

Then his lawyer Mike Allred (Alan Ruck) informs him that the state of Mississippi is about to confiscate his business, the funeral home his family has been operating for ages in Biloxi, due to unpaid debts.

Mike tells him to meet with Raymond Loewen (Bill Camp) of the Loewen Group, whose companies manage funeral homes all over the country. 

They come to an agreement that Loewen will help Jeremiah solve his financial troubles. 

But months pass and Loewen does not honor their agreement. Jeremiah’s young assistant lawyer, Hal Dockins (Mamoudie Athie), tells him that Loewen wants him to go bankrupt so then he can acquire his whole business.

Hal suggests that Jeremiah hires the flamboyant lawyer Willie Gary to handle his case but Gary refuses as he handles only personal injuries that are easy to win and can give him profitable settlements. 

He says does not do contract law cases and also doesn’t handle white clients. 

Hal tells him that this is his chance to be a real hotshot lawyer like more famous black lawyers Thurgood Marshall (the first black justice of the Supreme Court) and Johnnie Cochran (who handled the OJ Simpson case.)

Gary accepts the case and Allred is not pleased to work with his black team.

But eventually, he gives way as the case’s lead attorney when it’s discovered that a relative of his supported the Ku Klux Klan. 

Loewen, in turn, also gets a black female lawyer, Mame Downes (Jurnee Smollett), to counter Gary’s appeal to the mostly black jury. 

What follows are courtroom scenes where both lawyers try to out smart each other. 

Discussions get heated, tempers flare, Jeremiah loses hope and almost dropped the case. 

But we already know the outcome of the trial which is about corporate corruption and also racial injustice. 

The movie is smartly written, mixing humor with real life problems, like big business milking people dry even when they are still grieving. 

It’s a case of David vs. Goliath and the wise combination of drama and comedy keeps you hooked from beginning to end, making it a real crowd pleaser.  

All the staple elements of a courtroom drama are in the movie, the usual objections and the judge warning the legal counselor to watch himself. 

But it’s Foxx who really nailed his flashy lawyer role perfectly starting with his dynamic screen presence then firing away energetically with all cylinders. 

Lately, he’s been playing supporting roles in movies like “They Cloned Tyrone” and “God is a Bullet”, but in “The Burial”, he is given a role like Gary where he can shine in scenes that can be hilarious and poignant by turn. 

And he does give it his all to remind viewers how exceptionally good he can be when given the chance.  

The relationship between Gary and Jeremiah is the core of the film and Tommy Lee Jones wisely gives a more sedate portrayal of Jeremiah. 

He underplays it most of the time to give Foxx the floor, but he knows how to push all the right buttons. 

He knows it’s a big gamble to take the Loewen Company to court, but for him, it’s a matter of family principles.

Mamoudie Athie as Jeremy’s black legal counsel, Jurnee Smollett as the rival lawyer known for her ruthless cross examinations and Bill Camp as the unscrupulous businessman who eventually relents.

Director Maggie Betts handled well all the courtroom fireworks and succeeds in giving the movie a feel good finale.